The introduction of a Standard Kurdish

Child at blackboard

By Scherco R. Baban:

A while ago, the Kurdistan Region´s president, Mesûd Barzanî announced measures to found a standard Kurdish (Lingua Franca). This news delighted many of us Kurds who wish to see a unified written system for our language.

In my opinion, the use of the Latin-based System as a unified written system for all our dialects is the best solution. The Latin alphabet is simpler than the Perso-Arabic and more adequate for the purpose of communicating via the internet and other modern communication tools. This is very important to promote the use of the Kurdish language for the benefit of young Kurds both in Kurdistan and those who live abroad.

Comparing to the existing Perso-Arabic model, the Latin alphabet has greater flexibility in writing of any Kurdish dialect and it could be used with most modern communication tools. This unified writing system makes publications and media in the Kurdistan Region useful in other parts of Kurdistan and any part of the world.

To promote our Kurdish language among our people we have really to have an easy and simple alphabet. A unified writing system for all dialects of Kurdish is imperative and the Latin-based alphabet is the answer.

I think it is important that our people can even learn this new system by themselves. Because of our political and geographical reality, schools and courses are not always available for all Kurds. Social tools on the web and cable TVs could be very effective in promoting it! I would like to use this article to ask any Kurdish computer geek to a design a ‘learning Kurdish Latin Alphabet APP’ to be used in new-generation mobile phones. Let´s make this the ‘cool’ language among our young people. Let´s make it ‘cool’ to be a Kurd and talk and write in Kurdish. Let’s make our youngsters to be proud and have more or at least the same national pride as our hostile neighbors.

In my opinion we need pride to maintain our culture and heritage. Inner pride, inner strength and confidence are the most important tool to achieve that. Pride is a weapon!

English, Chinese and Arabic and many other languages do not have the easiest alphabet or orthography.  But they have large states to promote them! Because of this reality we need a simple system to be implied not only by our intellectuals or educated people but most importantly by the vast MAJORITY. We need to make Written Kurdish the language of the majority and not the language of the few!

Standard Language or Lingua Franca

I heard that an academy was set up to evolve a so-called standard language, a Lingua Franca. In my opinion that we should not bother so much about that for now as it would even spark some regional or tribal sensibility and this is the least thing we need.

What we need is the Kurdistan Regional Givernment (KRG) to implement the use of the Bedirxan system as soon as possible. People in South Kurdistan would start understand Kurdish dialects of North and Western Kurdistan better and the people of the North would get access to Southern Kurdish literature.

The second step (where the Academy is indeed needed) is to unify the terminology concepts that Kurds use in the different parts of Kurdish territories, such as in science, law, politics, or even daily concepts.

How to say terminology in Kurdish? Is it terminoloji or terminologi?

How to say mobile phone in Kurdish? Is ‘Mobayel’ the right way to say it, or should we stop using the British English pronunciations?

What is the name of the first Soviet leader? Is he Lenin or “Linin” as they use to proununciate it in Southern Kurdistan because of the Arabic influence and as we know the Arabic language doesn’t have the letter E. ( Many of our ex-communists and politicians used to read books and other materials in Persian and Arabic).

Shouldn´t Korek Tilikom change its name to Korek Telekom?

Isn’t Europa more proper than Ewrupa?

When we manage to use the terminologies in the same way among all Kurds then it will be very easy to create our Lingua Franca. Actually it will be created or evolved by its own. It will just be like an assisted natural evolution of our language. All we need to do is to assist by some guidelines that`s all! It will be the language of the people by the people.

Linguistics scholars and philology teachers will just assist the language into its natural evolution with some guidelines and correct use of grammar and CORRECT introduction of foreign words into Kurdish… So the loanwords need to naturalize and comply with common global Kurdish spelling rules whilst few local exceptional pronunciations are justified.

As I said before, the users of the Bedir Xan Latin System in North and western Kurdistan, could gain easy access to publication on the Internet and electronic mail, published in the Kurdistan Region as well as the capability of making their publications and books readable in the Kurdistan Region.

By this way, even if we do not achieve the actual union yet, a psychological union is much more effective than armed struggle! Our psychological union and independence is key to the actual independence! Just like when sportsmen have their inner game before the actual game.

I think we need to make this reform now and not tomorrow and to begin promoting it among our people we can start with the social tools on the web such as Facebook and others and the Kurdish NGOs, and the Institute Kurd de Paris and other institutions. The KRG should introduce the reform right away into schools. In my opinion we need a 10-year introduction period when both alphabets are taught and gradually the Latin system would become the main writing system. The Person-Arabic Alphabet should remain available for a longer period in the governmental institutions for the elders.

A few things to remember:

  • We should write foreign scientific words like or near their original writing when there is no original Kurdish words: arkeologî, mobîl, bîologî, dîgîtal, psikologî, stasion, demokratî  telekom, Europa.
  • We must write the name of people who use a version of Latin alphabet as their original.
  • For names of Peoples who don’t use the Latin form – like Chinese, Russian or Arabs – we could use the English variation or any already-established form to write it.

Unified Writing, Different Pronunciations!

A unified way of writing should allow a different ways of pronunciation. W should be read as a (V) and (U) and even (B). For example, when writing the word “eye” in Kurdish which is ÇAW in South Kurdmancî and ÇAV in North Kurdmancî, a common way of writing should be ÇAW.

It should be written kirdin ( to do) but it could be read kirin or kirdin. The alphabet “D” is not pronounced in many Kurdish dialects, such as the Silêmanî dialect, but it should be written anyway!

Again, unified script different pronunciation!

A Kurdish Academy of Language when formed must have representatives of all dialects and parts of Kurdistan -not just South and North Kurdmancî, but also Zazakî and Goranî etc. – and keep the political parties far away please! Lately, and especially in the Silêmanî region, I have noticed that there is a removal of Arabic loan words in our language, just to let the Persian loan words sneak in. Please try to find words from the Zaza regions, North Kurdistan, Hewraman region or even distant regions like Ezidi Kurds in Sinjar, Georgia and Armenia.

Please keep the Kurdish language Kurdish!

When introducing Kurdish names into English we must use the Kurdish way of pronunciation. Examples:

  • Silêmani, not Sulaimaniyah
  • Hewler, not Arbil or Erbil
  • Akre, not Aqrah
  • Efrin, not Afrin
  • Koye, not Koya or Koysanjaq

Not trying to stop the use of non-Kurdish names in English for Kurdish places invites people to think that these places have a non-Kurdish history or origin. Beware!

In Turkey it´s forbidden to write Constantinople, Smyrna and Ikonia instead of Istanbul, Izmir and Konya. So why should we let this happen when, contrary to some claims, our cities and places are really ours?

Let us work together and make this dream about a unified Kurdish alphabet come true!

Scherco R. Baban is a nuerolinguist (NLP) and a Hispanist (specializing in Hispanic studies, that is Spanish language, literature, linguistics, history, and civilization). He started his studies in Uppsala, Sweden and completed them in Spain and Latin America.
8 Responses to The introduction of a Standard Kurdish
  1. Lorenzo Garcia
    February 28, 2013 | 11:04


  2. Suleiman
    February 28, 2013 | 22:20

    Why change something that is already there and established? Why confuse generations of people? I did it unfounded.

  3. Hamma Mirwaisi
    March 1, 2013 | 00:02

    Unified Kurdish Language
    Every language have root and so is our Kurdish language.
    We have 2500 years old written Aryan language using ancient symbol. The symbol has been changed to Latin alphabet.
    That language was called Aryan language not Persian or Kurds by Emperor Darius the Great.
    The entire Kurdish people with all the dialect can use that language because it is modern Kurdish language.
    Iranian Government did not used that language because it was Kurdish language, so why Kurds are looking for unified Kurdish language when we have Kurdish language already.
    The Kurdish political parties used every thing against one another, and they used unified Kurdish language hostages for politics because they are using Kurds against one another based on dialect.
    It is time for Kurdish intellectual to stop hatred toward one another and use the existing unified Kurdish language, which is written 2500 years ago for us.
    I know how to read that language and decipher every words of it for people who are working to unify Kurdish language.

  4. Hawar
    March 1, 2013 | 01:00

    Indeed, Bedirxan alphabet or the language of Hawar should be used as the standard alphabet. Most of the classical Kurdish literature, including Mem u Zin, Hawar, and first Kurdish newspaper were written in Latin script established by Prince Celaded Bedirxan’s . Arabic/Persian script do not fit into Kurdish language as Kurdish does not have certain sounds that exist in languages. Thus, Latin script is more appropriate.
    Although you make a good argument, I disagree with some of your points because they don’t convince me from a linguistic perspective. Some spellings you have proposed do not work in Kurdish language as two vowels can’t be used after each other if there is no cushion alphabet used in between. In addition, Southern Kurmanji and Northern Kurmanji are two different languages – from the same family, they are identified as one language due to political reasons to unite Kurds.
    Spoken language is always different then the written language. In Northern Kurmanji , certain alphabets may be omitted in speaking, but they are ALWAYS written regardless of the regional sub-dialect.
    Finally, there are people who are proud to be Kurds and know Kurdish language at a high proficiency level. Those who do not speak their language well do not speak any other language(s) well.

  5. Tim Upham
    March 1, 2013 | 05:41

    Kurdish is not a standardized language, the different dialects are almost mutually unintelligible to each other. I was teaching English as a second language to Kurdish refugees, and the ones from Iraq had to speak to the ones from Turkey in English. Because they could not understand each others Kurdish. But coming up with a standardized Kurdish will be needed, for the sake of education and media. Ireland had to do it, with Irish.

  6. Suleiman
    March 1, 2013 | 12:10

    Something like this shouldn’t be passed in southern Kurdistan without a referrandum. Let people pick which letter they feel comfortable with, although I highly doubt the lawmakers care for the people’s opinions.

  7. qenberek
    February 19, 2014 | 20:17

    I agree that Bedir Xan Latin-based System is a better alternative to the Arabic-based system but there are some characters in Soranî that don’t exist in Kurmancî. For example: the strong “ڵ ” and weak “ل”; the strong “ۆ ” and weak “و”. These characters are missing in the writing system devised by the late Bedir Xan. Therefore, I presume that the already adapted system plus those missing Sorani Characters will be a sound solution and good start towards a standardized Kurdish.

  8. Ciwan
    April 15, 2015 | 10:21

    As a web developer and a technology enthusiast, the Latin based alphabet is easier to work with on so many levels when it comes to the digital world.

    I hope they adopt the Latin based system, sure the first generation to see this change would complain, but for once, we ought to think ahead a couple of generations.

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